David Harrison & Christopher Ryan
My story began on Valentine’s Day, 1995. My home pregnancy test turned pink almost immediately. I was happily married to my husband Chuck for 13 years. We were the parents of three kids: Charles Anthony, age 12, Jamie Elizabeth, age 10, and Kathryn Jane, age 5. We were in the process of building a new home, temporarily living in a three story townhouse. Our youngest child would be off to kindergarten in September and I was looking forward to returning to work as a Registered Nurse. We were in shock!
We learned from a routine ultrasound at 17 weeks that I was expecting identical twin boys. We were told the boys had dilated kidneys which could threaten their lives in utero and after birth. We were sent for further evaluations. The perinatologists were less concerned about the boys’ kidneys and more concerned with me. I was 37 years old and had been treated for mild hypertension in my other pregnancies. I had a 50% risk for developing superimposed pre-eclampsia and was also at risk for incompetent cervix, premature delivery and twin-twin transfusion syndrome. My husband, a physician, was worried sick about losing me and being left aloneto raise the children and twins with kidney disease. I was told I needed to change my lifestyle and would need bedrest. We decided to trust God and continue the pregnancy.
The pregnancy was excellent. Our families were excited and supportive. Amniocentesis revealed genetically healthy twins. I was placed on 2 grams of calcium (an anti-hypertensive), and 1 aspirin a day as a prophylaxis against pre-eclampsia. The boys’ kidneys were monitored by ultrasound weekly. No complications developed throughout the pregnancy. I gained 35 pounds, never needed a day of bedrest, never developed pre-eclampsia, my cervix remained closed, and the twins were perfectly and exactly concordant in size throughout pregnancy. The twins’ kidneys got better too.
Our builder went bankrupt in the spring and we had the added stress of finishing the house ourselves. The summer of ’95 was the hottest on record. We were in the rented townhouse for 13 months and had to allow realtors in to show it to prospective buyers 2-3 times per week. The laundry room was on the third floor. I was exhausted and huge! My parents came down from Connecticut to help us pack up all our belongings.
By the grace of God our house was finished in late August. We moved into our home and prepared for the arrival of our twins due October 7th. We set up two of everything. Our kids started the new school year. My youngest began kindergarten and I followed her bus for one week to make sure she knew the routine well. My doctors decided to induce labor at 36-1/2 weeks to prevent a potential problem with my blood pressure. My mom arrived once again to help.
I was admitted to the hospital on September 11, 1995. Upon admission another ultrasound determined the twins’ positions were both still vertex-vertex (both head down). A few weeks before, twin B had turned from breech to vertex, so my doctors thought a vaginal delivery was possible. My other children had been born vaginally and weighed 6-7 pounds each. The twins were estimated to weigh 5 pounds, 3 ounces each. P-G gel was inserted and I prompty began contracting off and on. The next day I was in true labor. Pitocin was added and my membranes were ruptured. The twins were reactive and in no distress. My bladder felt like it would explode with every contraction. Two little heads were pushing on it and causing me great distress! I was given an epidural and quickly reached 10 cm. dilation. The delivery team rushed to the LDR room and the excitement began. Twin A, David Harrison was born September 12, 1995 at 6:17 pm. He was delivered with one easy push, weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces and had excellent apgars. He was born urinating; so much for kidney problems! The doctors were all simply ecstatic! “One down, one to go!”
The nightmare was about to begin. “The perfect delivery gone bad!” That was what my obstetrician said. Twin B was monitored continually by the chief obstetrical resident using ultrasound and fetal monitor. My contractions stopped. Twin B turned from vertex, to breech, to transverse. With so much room to himself he was performing somersaults like a gymnast. My doctor tried to manually reposition him using internal and external version. The baby was sucking on the doctor’s gloved finger. At one point twin B was in a shoulder presentation and his arm came out. I tried and tried to push him out but it was no use. I wasn’t contracting, my uterus was in a state of inertia, and the baby wasn’t engaged in the pelvis. My husband had a horrible look of helplessness, horror, and panic on his face that I will never forget! He kept repeating over and over, “Don’t you think we should just do a C-section?” My docto r felt confident that she could get him out. Suddenly I had a sharp pain in my right side despite the epidural. The baby must have dropped his heart rate and gone into distress because I was immediately brought to the O.R. for an emergency C-section. I was crying and scared. I was screaming for the anesthesiologist not to intubate me because I was afraid I would die. There were two anesthesiologists pumping drugs and my head was spinning. Doctors and nurses were frantically inserting I.V.s and catheters and trying to get the baby out. My husband was terrified he would lose us both and told me over and over not to close my eyes. I was praying out loud for God to help.
Twin B, Christoper Ryan, was born at 7:02 p.m., 5 pounds, 7 ounces with horrendous apgars. He had a low heart rate and no respirations. He was coded and rushed to the Intensive Care Nursery. He was placed on a ventilator. In the recovery room I was resting from the double whammy vaginal and abdominal delivery. My obstetrician was sobbing and sobbing. My husband began the phone calls to family to break the bittersweet news. Everyone was in shock.
David was healthy and beautiful, eating well and very alert. He was in the regular nursery and roomed in with me as much as possible. Christopher was the mirror image of David (and so much like the other kids as well). He was gorgeous. When I saw him my heart was torn from my chest. He was weaned from the ventilator immediately. He had seizures and was placed on phenobarbital. The doctors wanted to fully evaluate him for 72 hours to see if he would recover from the trauma of his delivery. It was determined that his injuries were massive. He has suffered severe birth asphyxia which was irreversible. There was no hope for survival. He had no response except for occasional reflex movements and his eyes would open when we caressed his forehead. It remains a mystery as to what happened to cause the asphyxia, perhaps a placental abruption or amniotic fluid embolism.
My moments with Christopher were too few and too short. I longed to be with him, to simply mother him, and offer my love. He deserved that much. I wasn’t allowed to drive and had a long process of recuperation from surgery. I had to care for David and the other children. My husband was so afraid of letting me spend too much time with Christopher. He knew I was going to have a broken heart and perhaps wanted to protect me. I wanted to spend all my time with Christopher, I longed to hold him and sing to him. We took precious pictures and videos and held prayer vigils. We baptized and dedicated Christopher and anointed him with oil. We read scripture and sang hymns. We cried and cried and cried. We prayed for a healing. The doctors allowed us to bring David and the other children to see Christopher. We have a few lovely pictures and video of the whole family together. We loved this baby boy with all our hearts. People from all faiths offered prayer, so many hearts were touched by his little life.
The insurance company no longer wanted to pay for Christopher’s hospitalization, nor, were they willing to pay for an extended care facility. We were mentally preparing to bring him home to die. My sister arrived from Florida to see the baby and on the same day my husband developed an arrythmia from the stress of all that had been going on. That same night we received a call that my mother-in-law who had been suffering from lymphoma had died. The next day my husband was admitted to the CCU and remained in the hospital for three days. I had my infant son in one hospital, my husband in another. I was a complete wreck! My husband was discharged, his heart was fine, thank God. My sister and I went to visit Christopher and then she returned home to Florida. We began our long 8 hour ride to Erie, Pa. to attend my mother-in-law’s funeral.
The next morning, October 24, we received a call telling us Christopher had died, he was exactly 6 weeks old. David was so fussy, crying and crying. It was as if he knew his twin was leaving him. The hospital told us Christopher had dropped his heart rate and quietly and peacefully passed away in the arms of a nurse. I missed that moment to be with him and was so devastated. We were numb with grief. My husband had lost his mother and son, so much for one person to bear. We had Christopher’s body flown to Erie. He looked just like a porcelain doll. We dressed him in a white outfit I had actually brought for David to wear, along with a blanket David slept with at night. We placed a white rose and photo of our family inside his small casket. We buried my mother-in-law, and, then Christopher the very next day. My brother-in-law, a minister, conducted a private family service at the cemetery. My husband carried the casket to the same spot where his mother was laid to rest. Our hearts were weak and heavy and tired of death.
It has been a long difficult process of grief. David brings such love and joy. Christopher is loved and missed. With every happy milestone David achieves, we are saddened at “What would have been”. We mourn the experience of raising twins. David is a very lonely soul. I truly believe he misses his identical brother. My tears of sadness have been constant. When my other children were infants I was a happy mother basking in the joy of those precious months. With David’s first year I was a grieving mother, full of sorrow.
I am so saddened to live with a loss that should not have happened. As a nurse it is difficult to cope with the fact that Christopher died because of a birth accident. I wish I had known the risks associated with the delivery of the second twin. I would have had a planned C-section. When I was 35 weeks one of the perinatologists told me, “You look great, but I’ll still be happier when the twins are out of your belly and into your arms, twins make me nervous”. Now I know what he meant. I find it almost unbearable to see other sets of twins. Yet, I am saddened everytime I hear of another loss similar to mine.
My faith in God keeps me together and functioning. I keep my hope and trust in Him. I know that Christopher is in Heaven and I will see him again. At night I look up to the Heavens and know Christopher who was named for Jesus is safe in His arms. I’ll keep him in my heart until we meet again.